About Major League Soccer
Major League Soccer – Fact Sheet
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Major League Soccer is the top-flight professional soccer league in the United States and was founded in 1996, after the country hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup. MLS will kick off its 21st year in March 2016.
CLUBS in 2016:
Eastern Conference: Western Conference:
Chicago Fire Colorado Rapids
Columbus Crew SC FC Dallas
D.C. United Houston Dynamo
Montreal Impact Sporting Kansas City
New England Revolution LA Galaxy
New York City FC Portland Timbers
New York Red Bulls Real Salt Lake
Orlando City SC San Jose Earthquakes
Philadelphia Union Seattle Sounders FC
Toronto FC Vancouver Whitecaps FC
- The 20 MLS teams each play a 34-game regular season schedule, 17 at home and 17 away.
- Last season, the Portland Timbers hoisted the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy for the first time in the Cascadia club’s history. The Timbers defeated Columbus Crew SC 2-1 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Dec. 6, 2015 in the final. Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri earned the MLS Cup MVP honors after scoring the opening goal in the first minute.
- In 2015, the New York Red Bulls were awarded the Supporters’ Shield, given to the team that finishes with the most regular season points for the second time in three years.
- The 2015 season saw an influx of high-profile global stars, including the signings of Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy), Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact), Andrea Pirlo (NYCFC), Frank Lampard (NYCFC) and MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC).
- 2015 was the first year in a new eight-year, landmark television and media rights partnership in the United States with ESPN, FOX Sports and Univision, highlighted by destination dates and times. With the addition of prominent international television partners, MLS is now among the most widely distributed soccer leagues in the world. MLS has broadcast agreements with Globosat in Brazil, Sky Sports in the UK, Letv Sports in mainland China, Abu Dhabi Media in the Middle East and North Africa, BeIN Sport in SE Asia and Australia, FOX Sports Africa and pan-European broadcaster Eurosport – reaching more than 140 countries and territories.
- 2015 saw MLS reach an all-time high in average attendance (21,574 – an increase of 12.7 percent from 2014), total attendance (7,335,053) and sellouts (161 – previous record was 133 in 2014).
In 2015, MLS clubs were home to players born in 55 countries outside the United States and Canada, demonstrating the diversity of Major League Soccer. Among the five major team professional sports leagues in the United States, MLS is the most diverse.
A description of several notable MLS players follows:
Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC): The Italian international had a record-breaking inaugural year in MLS, taking home the 2015 Landon Donovan Most Valuable Player award after setting a new single-season record for most combined goals and assists (38). In his debut campaign, Giovinco also captured the Audi Golden Boot and the MLS Newcomer of the Year honor while leading Toronto FC to its first ever playoff appearance.
Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC): The Sierra Leone native had a year to remember in his first season back in MLS after a stint abroad in England. Kamara suited up for Crew SC in 2015 and would have his finest season yet as a professional, tying the league-high in goals scored (22) with Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco, while adding eight assists. Kamara’s prolific season led Crew SC all the way to 2015 MLS Cup where the club fell 2-1 to the Portland Timbers.
Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact): The Chelsea legend was a mid-season signing like none other in MLS history, scoring 12 goals in 13 appearances for the Impact. The Ivorian striker took home the Etihad Airways Player of the Month award for September after leading the Impact to an unbeaten 4-0-2 record and tallying seven goals and an assist in five starts. Drogba’s torrid start in MLS helped the Canadian club reach the Eastern Conference semifinals in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City): At 30-years-old, Benny Feilhaber had a career renaissance in 2015. The midfielder more than doubled his previous career-highs in goals (10) and assists (15), while also setting new marks in games played (32), minutes (2,731), and shots (48). His 15 assists were only one shy of Giovinco’s league-leading 16 helpers. Feilhaber’s performance propelled Sporting Kansas City to a fourth-place finish in its first season in the Western Conference.
Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy): The 2014 MLS Cup champions added to their already deeply talented roster in the summer of 2015 by acquiring Mexican superstar Giovani dos Santos. The Galaxy signed the 26-year-old from Villarreal CF in La Liga BBVA, Spain’s top-flight professional division. Dos Santos had previously played for FC Barcelona in La Liga and Tottenham Hotspur FC in England’s Barclays Premier League. Internationally, dos Santos is one of Mexico’s most accomplished players, earning his first cap in 2006.
Kaká (Orlando City SC): The 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year and 2002 World Cup champion captained Orlando City SC through a successful inaugural year in MLS. The Brazilian powerhouse helped keep the expansion club in the playoff picture up until the last minute, while scoring nine goals and seven assists through the regular season. Orlando City SC finished the year second in average attendance (32,847) behind league-leaders Seattle Sounders FC.
Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers): The 2013 MLS Newcomer of the Year has become the face of the Portland Timbers franchise while leading the Cascadia club to its first MLS Cup title in 2015. The Argentine maestro ruled Portland’s midfield with creativity and a flair for the spectacular, notching eight assists in the regular season and securing the opening goal in 2015 MLS Cup. Valeri’s 2015 season was even more impressive as he came back from an ACL injury suffered on the last day of the 2014 regular season.
David Villa (New York City FC): The all-time leading goal scorer for the Spanish national team, Villa joined NYCFC after helping lead Atlético Madrid to the La Liga championship in 2014. Prior to that, the dynamic forward won two La Liga titles with FC Barcelona (2011, 2013) and was crowned World Cup champions with Spain in 2010. Villa captained NYCFC through the expansion club’s landmark first year and finished the season as one of the league’s most prolific scorers with 18 goals.
Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy): The 2015 Summer Transfer Window saw another blockbuster addition for the Galaxy, as the club officially welcomed Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard into its ranks. Gerrard joined the Galaxy following one of the most storied careers in Liverpool and English football history. In 17 seasons with Liverpool, the team’s longest-serving captain had made 695 appearances while scoring 180 goals in all competitions as of his signing. Gerrard also has served as captain for England, making 114 appearances and scoring 21 goals on the international level, most recently captaining his country during the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Frank Lampard (New York City FC): Continuing the influx of top international talent in MLS was the arrival of Frank Lampard in July 2015. The Chelsea legend joined the New York club after a storied career in the English Premier League, winning the title three times with the Blues and finishing his career there as the club’s all-time leading scorer in all competitions. Played one season for Manchester City before joining NYCFC, leaving the EPL as the highest scoring midfielder of all time, ranked fourth among all players with 177 goals.
Andrea Pirlo (NYCFC): One of the top Italian midfielders for more than a decade, Andrea Pirlo joined NYCFC in the summer of 2015. Widely considered one of the world’s top set-piece specialists, Pirlo appeared in three FIFA World Cups for Italy (2006, 2010, 2014) and has registered more than 100 caps for the Azzurri. Pirlo joined MLS after starring for Italian heavyweights AC Milan and Juventus.
Major League Soccer is structured as a single, limited liability company (single-entity). In the single-entity business structure, club operators own a financial stake in the League, not just their individual team. The MLS investors are:
- Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG): Investor-operator of the Houston Dynamo and LA Galaxy (other domestic sports business ventures include the Staples Center, The Home Depot Center, the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings).
- Hunt Sports Group: Investor-operator of FC Dallas (other sports business ventures include the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and NBA’s Chicago Bulls).
- Kraft Soccer, LLC: Investor-operator of the New England Revolution (other sports business ventures include the NFL’s New England Patriots and Gillette Stadium).
- Kroenke Sports Enterprises: Investor-operator of the Colorado Rapids (other sports business ventures include the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, NFL’s St. Louis Rams and EPL’s Arsenal).
- Dell Loy Hansen: Investor-operator of Real Salt Lake. Utah-based entrepreneur and Real Estate developer became sole owner of the club in January, 2013, after purchasing co-ownership stake in a trio of properties – Real Salt Lake, Rio Tinto Stadium and ESPN700 Sports Talk Radio - previously owned by Dave Checketts and SCP Worldwide.
- Red Bull Company Limited: Investor-operator of Red Bull New York. The Austrian company produces the world’s leading energy drink. Other sports investments include a NASCAR team, Red Bull Salzburg, extreme sports and Formula One auto racing.
- Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment: Investor-operator of Toronto FC (other sports business ventures include the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, NBA’s Toronto Raptors and Air Canada Center).
- OnGoal, LLC: Investor-operator group of Sporting Kansas City consists of five Kansas City-area residents led by Cerner Corporation executives Neal Patterson and Cliff Illig.
- D.C. United Holdings: Investor-operators of D.C. United are Erick Thohir, Jason Levien and William H.C. ("Will") Chang. Chang holds ownership interest in Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants, while Thohir has a controlling stake in F.C. Internazionale Milano of the Italian Serie A.
- John Fisher and Lew Wolff: Investor-operator of the San Jose Earthquakes joined MLS as an expansion team in the Western Conference for the 2008 season. Fisher and Wolff are the principle owners of MLB’s Oakland Athletics.
- Andell Holdings, LLC: Investor-operator of the Chicago Fire. Andell Holdings is a private investment firm with global business and investment interests led by Andrew Hauptman.
- Joe Roth, Adrian Hanauer, Drew Carey and Paul Allen (Vulcan Sports and Entertainment): Investor-operators of Seattle Sounders FC consist of Hollywood producer Joe Roth, local entrepreneur Adrian Hanauer, television personality Drew Carey and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (owner of VSE that operates the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and NBA’s Portland Trailblazers).
- Keystone Sports and Entertainment, LLC: Investor-operators of Philadelphia Union include iStar Financial Chairman & CEO Jay Sugarman, veteran sports executive Nick Sakiewicz, Christopher and Robert Buccini and David Pollin, founding partners of The Buccini/Pollin Group.
- Golden Boy Productions and Brener International Group: Mexican-American boxing icon Oscar De La Hoya and Gabriel Brener together invested in the Houston Dynamo and now own 50 percent of the club.
- Greg Kerfoot, Jeff Mallett, Steve Luczo and Steve Nash: Investor-operators of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC include Greg Kerfoot (founder of software company Business Objects), Jeff Mallett (former Yahoo! President and COO and owner of English club Derby County FC), Steve Luczo (President and CEO of Seagate Technology) and Steve Nash (current NBA player and Vancouver native).
- Peregrine, LLC: Investor-operator group of the Portland Timbers consists of former U.S. Treasury Secretary and CEO of Goldman Sachs Hank Paulson and his son, Merritt Paulson, a professional sports entrepreneur.
- Free 2 Play Holdings: Joey Saputo is the principal Investor-Operator of the Montreal Impact. The Saputo Family is the founder of Saputo, a major international dairy products company.
- Precourt Sports Ventures LLC: Investor-operator group of the Columbus Crew. PSV is a privately held investment and management firm focused on sport-entertainment business led by Managing Partner Anthony Precourt.
- City Football Group US Holdco LLC: Investor-operator group of New York City Football Club consists of a partnership of Manchester City Football Club and the New York Yankees. Manchester City will be the majority owner of the new club. As an investor, the Yankees will be an active member of the ownership group. Team to begin play in 2015.
- Orlando Sports Holdings, LLC: Investor-operators of Orlando City SC include majority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva, and founder and managing partner Phil Rawlins (other sports business ventures include EPL’s Stoke City F.C.). Team to begin play in 2015.
- AMB Group: Investor-operator of the Atlanta team, led by Arthur Blank. Team to begin play in 2017. Also the parent company for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
- LAFC: Los Angeles ownership group led by entrepreneur Henry Nguyen, sports and entertainment leader Peter Guber, and sports veteran Tom Penn.
Major League Soccer has elevated the sport’s stature in North America by building soccer-specific stadiums. In 1999, the League began moving aggressively to create custom-made venues for its teams that generate the atmosphere and intimacy the game deserves. The seating capacity for these stadiums is between 18,000 and 30,000 and the stadiums share design concepts with some of the finest soccer venues in the world. In 2016, 15 of 20 MLS clubs play their home games in stadiums built with soccer in mind. The existing MLS soccer stadiums are:
- MAPFRE Stadium (Columbus, Ohio): Opened in 1999 as the home of the Columbus Crew. Built by the Hunt Family, this stadium has hosted two All-Star Games, two MLS Cups and many important U.S. National Team games.
- StubHub Center (Carson, Calif.): Opened in 2003 and is the luxurious home of the LA Galaxy. Hosted MLS All-Star Game and several MLS Cups.
- Toyota Stadium (Frisco, Texas): Opened in 2005 as the home of FC Dallas. Hosted MLS Cup 2005 and MLS Cup 2006. A 145-acre multipurpose sports complex with 17 tournament-grade fields.
- Toyota Park (Bridgeview, Ill.): Located just 15 minutes south of downtown Chicago, the handsome venue debuted in 2006 and hosted the Sierra Mist All-Star Game with Chelsea FC competing against the MLS All-Stars.
- BMO Field (Toronto, Canada): Toronto FC began play in MLS in 2007 and was host of the 2008 MLS All-Star Game and MLS Cup 2010.
- Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (Commerce City, Colo.): The Colorado Rapids’ stadium opened in 2007 and is the centerpiece of a 24-field soccer complex believed to be one of the world’s largest, and hosted the 2015 AT&T MLS All-Star Game.
- Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy, Utah): Real Salt Lake’s stadium opened in 2008 and was the host of the 2009 MLS All-Star Game.
- Red Bull Arena (Harrison, N.J.): The New York Red Bulls state-of-the-art stadium, inaugurated in 2010, is located 10 miles from midtown Manhattan. It features a dynamic form roof—a curving structure that wraps the entire 25,189-seat stadium in an elegant metal shell.
- PPL Park (Chester, Penn.): This world-class waterfront stadium located just over 15 miles from Center City, Philadelphia. Built at the foot of the Commodore Barry Bridge, this 18,500-seat stadium is the home to Philadelphia Union and was inaugurated in 2010. PPL Park hosted the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game on July 25, 2012.
- Providence Park (Portland, Ore.): Already steeped in sports and entertainment history, Providence Park underwent a $31 million renovation to create an exciting and authentic soccer facility. Hosted the 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game.
- BC Place (Vancouver, Canada): Vancouver began their inaugural season in MLS at Empire Field before moving into the new BC Place Stadium in downtown Vancouver on October 2, 2011 when the club hosted its rival, Portland Timbers. BC Place has made improvements to the stadium with soccer fans in mind. The revitalized stadium seats 21,000 fans during regular season MLS matches.
- Children’s Mercy Park (Kansas City, Kansas): The $180 million plus, state-of-the-art, soccer-specific stadium seats 18,467 soccer supporters and features a dramatic canopy roof that covers every seating section. The stadium features 36 suites and five clubs, including the innovative Members Club. Hosted the 2013 AT&T MLS All-Star Game and MLS Cup 2013
- BBVA Compass Stadium (Houston, Texas):Houston Dynamo’s new downtown Houston stadium, which seats 22,000, opened on May 12, 2012.
- Stade Saputo (Montreal, Canada): Montreal Impact began their inaugural season in MLS at Olympic Stadium moving into the renovated Stade Saputo on the Olympic grounds in June of 2012.
- Avaya Stadium (San Jose, California): San Jose Earthquakes begin its 2016 campaign in its brand new Avaya Stadium (capacity: 18,000) for the second season. The European-inspired building is the first cloud-enabled venue in Major League Soccer and is among the most technologically advanced stadiums in the world.
The 2016 season, the second of an eight-year television and media rights partnership with ESPN, FOX Sports and Univision, will continue to showcase new, consistent national television schedules, expanded live game streaming and innovative season-ending schedule enhancements – giving fans more opportunities than ever to engage with MLS content.
Sky Sports in the UK, pan-European broadcaster Eurosport, Globosat in Brazil, Abu Dhabi Media in the Middle East and North Africa, Letv Sports in mainland China, beIN SPORTS across Southeast Asia and Australia, FOX Sports Latin America and FOX Sports Africa, together with ESPN, broadcast select games across their international platforms, and are part of the ever-growing portfolio of MLS’ global broadcast partnerships.
Every MLS match is televised in 2016, either nationally or regionally, and most are available live on www.MLSsoccer.com and www.FutbolMLS.com.
The portfolio of blue chip partners working with MLS to grow their business continues to expand with the growth of the League. A list of current sponsors, suppliers, and partners – including the year in which the partnership was formed – follows:
adidas (athletic apparel and equipment): 1996
AdvoCare (sports drink): 2015
Allstate (insurance): 2011
AT&T (communications services): 2009
Audi (auto): 2015
Chipotle (fast-casual Mexican rest.): 2014
Coca-Cola (beverage): 2015
Continental Tire (tire): 2010
Draft Kings (Daily Fantasy): 2015
EA Sports (video game publisher): 2012
Etihad Airways (airline): 2014
Heineken (beer): 2015
The Home Depot (home improvement retailer): 2008
JELD-WEN (windows / doors): 2011
Johnson & Johnson: 2015
Kraft (Capri Sun) (juice drink): 2014
Makita USA (tools): 2004
Microsoft (technology): 2013
Mondelēz International (food): 2015
Panasonic (consumer electronics): 2001
SeatGeek (event tickets): 2016
Southern New Hampshire University (education): 2015
Wells Fargo (retail banking, commercial lending): 2013